Some Arkansas fishermen, and their numbers are not large, look with anticipation as the calendar moves deep into February.
They are awaiting walleye time.
Quite a few walleye chasers will tell you that these fish are with us year-round. But it’s become customary to think of walleye with later winter and early spawning activities. That’s when the fish move from deep waters to shallow areas.
Greers Ferry Lake is our best known walleye fishery, and it’s the closest to Faulkner County. When water temperatures warm a little, the fish head up the tributaries of the lake — South Fork, Middle Fork, Devil’s Fork. Good catches of walleye can be made.
But this is not easy, and it is not automatic. The cold weather we’ve had could push walleye action back a few days.
Greers Ferry may be the best known Arkansas place to go after walleye, but there are other waters to consider. Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork are productive too, and a good argument can develop around which of these three lakes has the best walleye fishing.
Lake Ouachita? Yes, good walleye fishing there, too. Something of a sleeper, except to northwest Arkansas anglers, is Beaver Lake, where extensive walleye stocking has taken hold big time. Good walleye are being caught in Beaver these days.
Downstream from Ouachita, lakes Hamilton and Catherine have fair walleye populations.
An outstanding Arkansas river for walleyes is the Spring, better known for its rainbow trout fishing. Walleyes are found both in the trout waters from Mammoth Spring down to Hardy and also in the warmer part of the river down to its mouth.
Current River and Eleven Point River, like the Spring in northeast Arkansas, have good numbers of walleyes. So does the Saline River in central Arkansas near Benton and the Ouachita River from Remmel Dam that forms Lake Catherine downstream to Arkadelphia. Lesser numbers of walleyes are found in lakes Greeson and Table Rock and in the White River upstream and downstream from Batesville.
The Lower Kings River is walleye country too, meaning the last several miles of the river in Arkansas in Carroll County and stretching into Missouri to meet Table Rock Lake.
Many anglers simply use customary bass fishing techniques by casting shallow-running lures into ripples or shoals and retrieving them at medium or slow speeds. It’s common to make the cast upstream and bring the lure downstream with the flow of the current, cranking the reel handle enough to keep it a little faster than the water’s flow.
Stick baits are popular for walleye work, both the standard kinds and the jointed type. Colors can be all over the spectrum, but a good many walleye anglers believe more fish-like colors are preferred to the bright or gaudy types.
Another popular scheme is to tip a jig head with a live medium-sized minnow and work it in the shallows. Most walleye fishermen believe small, crappie minnows don’t do the job, and big, catfish minnows are also less attractive to a walleye. The medium ones are "bass" minnows to some fishermen, though not everyone agrees on these designations.
Nightcrawlers are used for walleye work, and these are popular bait year-round, not just at spawning time.
Most walleye fishermen will testify as to the end result of his or her fishing success.
Anyone who has sat down before a plate of well-prepared walleye fillets knows and appreciates the table quality of these fish. More than one fish gourmet has declared that walleye puts crappie in the No. 2 position among Arkansas fish for eating.